“I Love You” is Dead – Say This Instead
“I love you” is so 1994. It’s been overused by both sexes for decades in an attempt to garner sexual favors, secure engagement rings, and further foster codependency. I tell my new roommates I love them. My neighbor tells me she loves me before I take cross-country flights. I do love my new roommates, and my neighbor does love me.
Love is grand, and love is bold, but professing love and even feeling love is not enough to sustain a relationship. How many of us have also stood on the cliff edge of clearly dying relationship and said, “But I love you.” You can love people who are in no way good for you to be around, be it in friendships, in romantic relationships, or with family. And you can love the shit out of people who don’t even want you in their lives. You can even be in an ongoing situation where you both say “I love you” but you aren’t really in a relationship.
Sure, the words are warm and fuzzy to hear, but they are empty without a foundation beneath them. “I love you” may get you into relationships, but love alone will not sustain them. Instead, the three words that, when spoken with authenticity, have the capacity to create, hold, and heal any and all relationships are “I got you.”
Yes, I got you, not I love you.
What makes these three little words magical? Not the words themselves, but the three aspects of being that they portray.
Aspect #1: Knowing Yourself
Before you can hold someone else’s experience within the safe container of your own experience, you have to have done your own work. You have to know yourself – know your triggers, know your weaknesses, and know your strengths. You’ve got to have an idea of when you are vulnerable to being reactive as opposed to proactive, and when you let your ego dictate your responses as opposed to letting your higher self make your choices.
Knowing yourself means you’ve been in the fight before. You’ve taken your hits and learned from them. This isn’t your first time dancing in the cage, so getting your toes stepped on isn’t going to set you off into unconscious patterns, aka potentially being an asshole.
Knowing yourself means you’re comfortable with vulnerability, with letting the person standing in front of you have his or her own unique experience without the need to dominate, manipulate, or denigrate what this person is going through for any of the myriad reasons it could be making you uncomfortable.
Doing work on yourself is not easy. It’s actually the scariest and most courageous action step you can take toward the relationship you have with yourself.
Aspect #2: Knowing How To Hold Space
“I got you” means just that – I’ll create space for you to freak the fuck out if need be. No matter what you’re going through from just having a shitty day, to the death of a loved one, to any manner of personal crises, I’m willing to stand here and simply bear witness to your pain, heartbreak, sorrow, or mania. I got you means I can handle it. I can stand in the fire with you without the need to try to extinguish it.
Why? Because it’s not about me. It’s not about how what happened to you is making me feel. My discomfort is irrelevant right now. This is about you and your human experience in its current expression no matter how awful.
It means the space I create and hold gives you cart blanche to feel, express, and do anything and everything you need, even if it’s with irrationality, chaos, or rapid emotional change – the whole gamut. There are no rules within which you need to operate. Go crazy. It’s a crazy world and often demands a likewise reaction.
Let your emotions run their full course. Laugh, cry, scream, hit me in the chest, collapse to the floor. Do it all over again and more. It’s no problem. As I told you, I’ve got you.
Aspect #3: Knowing How To Breathe
When you can look someone right in the eye, with an open heart and no other intention than to stand with them, you know how to breathe. You know how to expand your stomach and keep it loose in the face of human discomfort. You’ve done your work. You’ve trained yourself in the art of being present and staying that way in difficult times.
You’ve trained your breath to save you from having to do Matrix-esque human-pretzel backbends to avoid the emotional hooks coming at you. The hooks that want to pull you into an unconscious reaction, ones that make the experience about you and your ego.
Instead, you stand tall, shoulders down and back, belly soft, and heart open. The hooks simply bounce off of your chest without their barbs touching down and pulling you in. You need not arm yourself against the experience of another person when you are capable of breathing in front of them.
“There are no bad situations in life,” I was told at age twenty. “There is only poor breathing.”
Learning to breathe roots your feet to the floor and keeps you grounded in your own consciousness, not allowing you to be pushed or pulled out of your center. From that grounded space, and only from that space, can you truly allow another human being to lose their shit in front of you while you remain present.
There is power in presence. It allows people to be exactly who they are, and experience fully what they’re going through in their lives. It also allows you to enjoy an authentic exchange with another person without either of you needing to censor or dial down your experience. Authenticity is magic, it’s the most real you’ll ever feel.
Cultivate the foundation needed to be able to hold space for someone else. In doing so, you’ll receive a benefit hard to articulate in words – the ability to do the same for yourself.
One Day Stronger Action Steps:
1) Do the work – Ask yourself what your triggers are. If you’re in a relationship, what are the buttons your significant other can push to pull you into an argument? List them. Write them out and then dive into them fully. Explore the message these triggers are trying to tell you, the lessons they want you to learn.
2) Practice holding space – The next time someone is speaking to you, practice being there with them. Breathe. Listen. Don’t BEGIN to formulate your reply until AFTER they are done speaking and you’ve taken two to three breaths. Enjoy the space. Fill it. Hold it.
3) Learn to breathe – If meditation is not part of your daily human experience, make it so. Dedicate five minutes a day for the next ten days to just sit, breathe, and let be what is. Drop your email in the box on the right, in two weeks you’ll get a copy of my Meditation For People Who Think Meditation Won’t Work For Them E-book and throw yourself into the practice.